Almost 30 years after it was first discovered in Colorado, chronic wasting disease has come East. On March 31, officials announced that a whitetail deer in upstate New York tested positive for the deadly disease, marking the first time CWD has been found outside the Rocky Mountain West and upper Midwest.
The infected 6-year-old doe came from a captive herd in Oneida County and was slaughtered as part of New York’s mandatory CWD surveillance program. The doe’s origin is currently being determined. State officials plan on destroying and testing all other captive deer on the farm, as well as “a large number” of wild deer in the surrounding area.
CWD is a fatal neurological disease that effects the brain and central nervous system of deer and elk. It is similar to mad cow disease in cattle and Jacob Creutzfeldt disease in humans, although there have been no verified cases of humans contracting CWD.
Since CWD was diagnosed in mule deer in a research facility in Colorado in 1977, it has spread to free-ranging and captive deer and elk in Wyoming, Nebraska, Utah, Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Illinois, as well as the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
New York has an estimated 10,000 captive deer and elk, and 1 million free-ranging whitetails. Since 2002, 3,457 wild deer have been tested for CWD in New York, including 40 in Oneida County, with no deer testing positive.